The Old Year Ends…

As the year draws to a close, I suppose it’s time to look back and consider how it was. For me, 2017 was a year of mixed blessings and a badly needed kickstart. I’d fallen into something of a rut, so being challenged and thrown out of my comfort zone, as I have been this year, has given me renewed energy for 2018.

In terms of blogging, 2017 was a quiet year for me. I didn’t post nearly as much as I had the year before, nor was I able to spend quite as much time visiting other blogs as I would have liked to. However, I did make it to the Bloggers Bash in London, and caught up in person with many lovely familiar faces, as well as meeting some new ones. I also spent a magical weekend in Scotland with the Silent Eye, discovering that we can be tested in many different ways.

When it came to blog posts a perennial favourite, Stuck Writing Your Author Bio, reigned supreme for the second year in a row, gaining more views than any other. The rest of my top ten consisted mostly of Wednesday Wanders, with Mykonos, Italy, Heidelberg, Stonehenge, Dragonstone and Bath ranking as the most popular destinations. (And my Wanders will be back in 2018, by the way – I haven’t run out of places yet, and have more travels planned). A post about a weekend in Paris with an old friend also made the top ten – looking at that list you wouldn’t think I started blogging about writing!

When it came to writing, this year was a busy one. I finished the first draft of Silver and Black, my vampire novel, as well as the final edit for Under Stone, the fourth Ambeth book. I managed to squeeze in a few short stories as well, and am looking forward to more writing and publishing in the coming year.

But for now the house is tidy, dinner is almost ready to eat and I’m looking forward to seeing in the New Year. Thank you to everyone who has visited, read, liked, commented and reblogged – you’re all wonderful. Wishing you joy and a prosperous 2018, wherever you are!

Happy New Year! x

A Small Update

Life has been extremely busy of late. Part of it has been getting back into the routine of work and school and extracurricular activities, part of it has been all the writing I’m trying to cram in to every spare moment.

For I am writing a LOT at the moment. Funny, the busier we get the more we seem to get done. They do say if you want something done, give it to a busy person and so it seems to be the case here.

Under Stone, Ambeth book four, is back out for a final read before publishing. Silver and Black, my vampire novel, is almost complete (though I may need a new name now that Marvel has greenlighted a superhero film with the same name). Another story, tentatively titled The Grove, has been demanding to be written, and I also have some editing underway, going back to an older story and revisiting the language.

A Thousand Rooms has been chosen as a feature book for September/October on Chick Lit Central, which is a huge thrill, and we’re giving away a signed copy to celebrate! Click here to visit the site and enter the comp.

But this weekend I’ll be doing something completely different. This morning I’m heading up to Scotland, to join Sue and Stuart and Steve, as well as the rest of the companions, for a Silent Eye weekend. I did one last year – you can read about it here – and it was a completely profound experience.

This time we’ll be wandering the stones with Running Elk, who knows the area well. I’m looking forward to the change in pace (though I’m praying for reasonable weather), and the chance to see somewhere new. I’ll be back Sunday and will blog about the experience, as I’m sure it will be quite something!

Happy weekend, everyone 🙂


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Ironing, Oak Apples and Editing or, How I Survived A Writing Wobble

I had a bit of a writing wobble earlier this week.

I’ve just begun editing Under Stone, the fourth book in my Ambeth series. It recently returned from a professional edit, and so I was taking suggestions and beta read comments on board, polishing the final crevices and tidying up punctuation and prose, ready to go to the next stage.

At least, that’s what I was supposed to be doing.

But something wasn’t right. Even my groaning ironing basket held more allure than playing with words. Even though it’s what I love to do. I mean, editing isn’t my favourite part of the process but there is still something immensely satisfying in taking a book through the final stages before publication, seeing the changes from rough first draft to the end product. So I was ready, I thought.

But I just couldn’t find the thread. The story thread. The Ambeth thread. Whenever I step into that world the voices are clear, the images sharp. I know all of the characters intimately, their backstory, what drives them, where they are going. But, for some reason, they seemed a little… distant. As did the world of Ambeth – the gardens, the Palace, the sighing sea, all felt as though I were viewing them through the wrong end of a telescope.

And so I had a wobble.

After all, it’s been a while since my last Ambeth book, Hills and Valleys, came out. Since then, I’ve published A Thousand Rooms, my standalone women’s fiction novel, as well as almost finished the first draft of Silver and Black, another standalone work. I’ve also started a new job which is taking quite a bit of my time. So I was worried. What if the story, the wonderful story that started me writing, words pouring out of me, had decided to, well, get up and leave? I mean, I had been working on Ambeth – Under Stone was quite a complex book to write as so many threads from the first three books came together, many of them to be resolved in this book. So it was only a couple of months since I’d last visited. But still – it had been a while.

And I couldn’t find my way back into the story.

So instead I fell into a wormhole of sadness and despair. But, after a pep talk from a lovely writerly friend and a good night’s sleep, I decided to approach things from a different angle. Instead of editing, I decided simply to read the story again. And, it seemed to help. A piece of music I associate with the books started playing in my head, and carefully, slowly, I started to wander back into the woods. I’m not all the way there yet but, thanks to music and oak apples and reading and thought, I think I might get through the Gate again.

And that ironing basket isn’t looking so interesting any more…


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Reflections on a Week Past

I missed my Wednesday Wander this week. It wasn’t because I’d run out of places, though – I’ve quite a few locations still to share, and more to visit, so will keep the series going as long as I can. No, it was for a couple of other reasons – one, I was part of a blog tour for a new book, The Finding Of Martha Lost, and my slot was Wednesday. The other was that it’s been a strange sort of week. Understatement, I guess. The tragic incident in Manchester affected me (as it affected a lot of people worldwide), and, once I’d posted about it, I just felt like hanging with family, especially my gorgeous girl, so blogging got put on the back burner for a few days.

I’ve done some walking, too, along my favourite canal route and past the river, taking photos of green calm and reflection. The swans I saw nesting the other week now have cygnets, three little balls of grey fluff following their parents across the water.

I did do some writing this week though, managing to sort out a few plot tangles in Silver and Black, my vampire novel. I know, right? I never thought I’d write a vampire novel, but a writing prompt almost two years ago via Ali Isaac brought me the character of Emelia Raven, and her story was too insistent to ignore. So, I’m pretty close to a finished first draft, which I’ll put away for a couple of months before coming back to, as I find that’s the best way to see what changes need to be made for draft two.

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend here as well, meaning Monday is a day off work and school (plus it’s the start of half-term). There’s work to do around the house, plus a bit of family fun, so I have fingers crossed the lovely sunshine we’ve had this past week sticks around.

Wishing you all a peaceful and happy weekend. Back to writing and wandering next week xx


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Reading, Writing, and Silver Fish Jumping

It’s been a little while since I’ve written an update kind of post, and so it seemed like today would be a good day.

A Thousand Rooms is currently available to read and review via NetGalley, and was recently in their Summer Reads newsletter. So far, so good. I’ve also been asked, via a NetGalley request, to take part in a blog tour for a new Random House/Penguin release, The Finding of Martha Lost. My review is due on May 24th – I’ve read the book already and can say it’s a lovely, whimsical read.

Writing-wise I’ve been forging ahead with Silver and Black, hoping to get a complete draft finished by the end of this month. I’ve been working on it, on and off, for over a year now, so it will be nice to get the structure sorted. There will be quite a bit of work after that, of course, adding in detail and finetuning things, so it’s a while away from being shared. However, the fourth Ambeth book, Under Stone, is now out for edit, and I’m sorting out the cover design with a view to publishing this summer. Then there’s The Grove, a story that’s coming to me in bits and pieces, and that I’m quite excited about. I foresee a lot of work ahead with that one…

Other than that, I’ve been looking at planning a few short trips over the coming months, so hopefully that will mean more material for my Wednesday Wanders (although I’m not close to running out yet!). Even though I’m not blogging quite as much as I usually do, I try not to miss posting those – it’s fun going back to places I’ve visited and I really enjoy hearing from everyone about places they’ve visited too. And does anyone else feel that Game of Thrones cannot return soon enough? I’m dying to find out what happens next, and think it quite mean that they’re making us wait so long. I also recently read The Handmaid’s Tale, and wish I could get the Hulu adaptation here – I hear it’s excellent.

And I’m still walking, enjoying the trees and canal and wild creatures, using the time to work out plots and ideas. Yesterday I saw herons, two swans building a nest, countless ducks and silver fish jumping, and was scattered with sweet scented hawthorn blossom as I wandered past water so smooth and still it seemed an extension of the path I walked.

Last night the gorgeous girl and I watched Eurovision together, as we usually do. We had snacks and supplies, plus I was tweeting with #BigUpYour Eurovision, which was hilarious fun. None of us, gorgeous girl included, were completely thrilled with the song that won – however, huge congratulations to Portugal on their first Eurovision win ever. Here’s to Lisbon 2018!

Happy weekend, everyone, and Happy Mother’s Day to those who are celebrating xx

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If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Back To A Working Week

IMG_0303It’s a new year, and a new era for me, as I’ve just returned to office work after more than a decade working freelance. My daughter is older now and soon won’t need me to take her to school any more so, when an opportunity came up, I took it.

I am still writing and marketing, though in a field different to anything I’ve done before. It’s a challenge, and an opportunity to create a role. It’s also part-time hours, in a nice office with nice people, so I feel very fortunate.

The only downside is that I have less time to write my own stories. I have several books on the go – Ambeth Four, Under Stone, is in the editing/about-to-go-to-beta-readers stage, Ambeth Five is three quarters written and Ambeth six is about halfway finished. I also have my vampire novel, Silver and Black, and another idea, called The Grove, which is slowly taking shape. In addition to that, I’m still trying to enter at least one writing competition per month – it’s something I started doing last year and I’ve had some results (although that’s another post). So working five days a week means I’ve had to adjust my writing schedule a little.

Before you all shout at me, of course I know I’ve been really fortunate these past years. Being able to choose my writing time has meant I’ve been able to create a lot of material, so at least now I have a good supply of story ideas to work with. I’m having to be a bit more organised about how and when I do  my own writing, but I’m finding that it’s working so far. Even though I now have less time, I find I’m using it more effectively.

Perhaps there’s a lesson in that.


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

 

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Twenty Six – Song

IMG_0271It’s actually Christmas Eve as I write this post, and I’m listening to Christmas music as I work. At the moment it’s John and Yoko’s Christmas carol – I think Mariah is up next.

I often listen to music when I write – I find it can get me into a flow where the music inspires the writing. Each of my books have a song or piece of music that ‘belongs’ to them, which is handy when I switch between WIPs. For example, I just have to hear the second movement of Beethoven’s 7th to be instantly transported to Ambeth, while Savage Garden’s ‘I Want You’ is Silver and Black‘s song of choice. Sometimes I just put the playlist on shuffle and see what comes up – you never know.

But at this time of year it’s Christmas songs whenever I can get them. Shane McGowan has just started singing, and I’m about to be transported to New York for a love story with a dark twist.

However you’re spending the holidays, I hope you enjoy them.


How about you? Do you have listen to music while you write? Do you have a favourite song? This was my response to Day 26 of the 30 Day Writing Challenge, and the prompt: Song

If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.